Easing of restrictions offers mixed fare for restaurants

Sunday's easing of restrictions has brought welcome renewed freedoms for Victorians, but it has also caused frustration for hospitality business owners.

The increased gathering size from five up to10 people from two households is good news for caterers such as Cookes Food, which delivers elaborate picnic feasts directly to the park.

Owner Sophie Storen says: "I was hoping we could have more people in someone's back yard but it looks like we are hitting the parks for a bit longer, which is certainly becoming something that will remain part of life for decades to come."



The expansion of the travel bubble up to 25 kilometres will also allow for more customers to return to the struggling Queen Victoria Markets for their shopping and support restaurants beyond their five-kilometre bubble.

In regional Victoria, venues will be allowed to open for up to 40 diners indoors and 70 diners outdoors from Monday. For operations with multiple rooms like pubs, that will mean a bigger grand final weekend, but the 10 person per space rule means the increased capacity will have little to no effect for restaurants, cafes and bars that have a single dining room.

Alla Wolf Tasker owns the two hat Lake House in Daylesford and feels the restrictions haven't relaxed nearly enough.

"Colleagues from interstate just cannot believe what we are facing. They have been open for months," she said.

Many are also unable to take advantage of the increase to outdoor spaces.

Liam Thornycroft opened his Daylesford trattoria, Beppe, earlier this year, and says "as an evening restaurant in Central Highlands, not many people are satisfied with dining in the cold and opt for our takeaway instead".

Provenance in Beechworth will not gain any new seats under the new rules, but owner Michael Ryan says he is just going to make the most of the next two weeks, saying "when we do open up I know how busy things are going to get".



Hospitality businesses in metro Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula can open from November 2 for 20 diners indoors and 50 outdoors, although this may be advanced should numbers hold at their low level.

Con Christopoulos of the European and City Wine Shop was hoping to open on Monday. He has applied to extend all of his Spring Street spaces and is also hoping to have Russell Place closed off for a collaboration with Gin Palace, Bar Ampere, Marameo and Neapoli which all share the laneway.

"We are ready to feed and serve Melburnians. We can't wait."

The delay is a devastating and confusing blow for business owners. Mallory Wall of Di Stasio says.

"Why all the rhetoric, money and plans for outdoor dining and then only open them simultaneously in two weeks? Why allow a group of 10 in the park but not allow outdoor dining now?"

Christian McCabe of Embla Wine Bar in the city says, "it's better than nothing, and good to have some clarity at all.

" The announcement at least means businesses can now begin taking bookings, hiring staff and building outdoor spaces ready for November 2."

Chin Chin restaurateur Chris Lucas, who has been vocal in pushing for hospitality to be allowed to reopen, says Sunday's announcement is "unworkable and not what the industry agreed upon or asked for".

He says that the Restaurant and Catering Association and chamber of commerce have pushed for 20 people per space upon reopening, which would increase to 50 people two weeks later and 100 by December 1.

"That's what we need, otherwise industry will be crippled," he said.

Frank Van Haandel of Stokehouse in St Kilda says the continued delays "cannot be justified".

He had hoped to open Pontoon this Thursday and says "City of Port Phillip have been amazing in encouraging outdoor dining on footpaths and outdoor public spaces, giving grants specifically to help with costs of tables, fencing and umbrellas."

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